We all know the Easter Bunny exists… but where did he or she come from and why do they bring eggs!?
Every year we celebrate Easter with brightly coloured eggs and Easter bunny’s. But why? Where did these strange traditions come from?
Many scholars believe that the answers can be found by looking to Pagan times. A time before Christianity, where people relied on the seasons and worshipped all kinds of different gods. One of those gods was Ostara, the Germanic Goddess of Dawn. She was the goddess responsible for bringing the Spring and making the daylight hours longer again. And she could be the reason that we include bunnies and eggs in our celebrations today.
Folklore & Fiction
Folklore is full of stories, passed down through the generations. The stories are often based on some kind of fact, but as they are told and retold, they also become full of magic and fanciful fiction and this is Ostara’s story.
As I have already mentioned, Ostara was responsible for bringing back the spring but one year she was a little later than usual and was ridden with guilt. When she did finally arrive, the first thing she noticed was a little bird who lay dying in the snow. His wings were frozen together and it was a pitiful sight. Ostara, feeling now even more guilty about her tardiness, scooped up the little bird and cradled him in her arms. Eventually the little bird stopped shivering and life began to return to his little body.
The Snow Hare
The little bird was alive but the frost had damaged his wings so much that he could no longer fly. Ostara fell in love with the little bird and decided to make him her pet. She took great care of him, but as he couldn’t fly, she felt a great sense of guilt and wanted to do something nice for him so she turned him into a snow hare and named him Lepus. But, as she was a goddess, she also bestowed him with some special gifts.
The first gift was the ability to run at astonishing speeds, so that he could evade all the hunters. The second, in honour of his previous life as a bird, was the ability to lay eggs. But these were no ordinary eggs, there were in all the colours of the rainbow and because they were so special, he was only allowed to lay them on one day of the year.
Lepus – The Hare
Lepus was obviously a very special hare and attracted the attention of the other female hares, which angered Ostara and filled her with jealousy. One day, enough was enough and Ostara lost her temper. She picked him up and threw him up into the heavens where he would remain among the other constellations for eternity, forever positioned under the feet of the constellation of Orion – the great hunter. But that is not the end of the story.
The Easter Festival
Every year, when Ostara returned to bring the spring, she looked up at the heavens and missed the little hare and the adventures they shared. She decided that, for one day only every year, she would allow him to come back to earth and run around. She also allowed him to lay his brightly coloured eggs all over the place, so that the little children would enjoy them. That day was Ostara’s festival day. A day that soon became known as The Easter festival.